Cincinnati Zoo's historic Reptile House to reopen after $408K renovations

CINCINNATI - Visitors to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens will be able check out snakes, lizards, turtles and more in the revamped Reptile House beginning Saturday after the nearly 138-year-old building's recent renovations.

The historic Reptile House reopens Saturday after two periods of nearly two-month renovations on the house's interior and exterior. The upgrades, which began in the fall of 2011, happened after the zoo received a grant for $408,886 to update the house and include the zoo's green initiative plans.

"By reinvesting back into the maintenance of our buildings, we can ensure that iconic structures, like the Reptile House, will be around for generations of zoo goers for the next century," Senior Director of Facilities and Sustainability at the zoo, Mark Fisher said in a news release.

The Reptile House, which was built in 1875, is the oldest zoo building in the country and one of three buildings at the Cincinnati Zoo listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Reptile House looks very similar to its original structure, despite having gone through a number of renovations.

"The Cincinnati Zoo takes its role as a historical Cincinnati landmark very seriously and we work hard every day to make sure we're keeping up with an aging facility," Fisher said in the release.

A "Save America's Treasure Grant" from the National Park Service provided the zoo with the money needed for the facility's renovations. The Cincinnati Zoo was the only grant recipient in Ohio and one of only 61 recipients in the country from a total of 338 applications that the National Park Service received.

HGC Construction did the improvements, which involved a two-and-a-half-month revamp to the exterior of the building followed by a two-month interior renovation.

The first phase of the renovation, which was completed in spring 2012, included a new roof with covering, skylights and proper gutters to help with the zoo's storm water management. HGC cleaned and repaired the exterior walls of the house. Also, the damaged doors and windows were repaired and insulated glass and a weather strip were installed to protect the interior of the building during the winter and summer.

The inside of the house got a new coat of paint, new carpeting and a new look with its original wood. A glass display on the dome of the building is now visible after having been covered by paint, said the zoo's Public Relations Coordinator Tiffany Barnes.

Also, several aspects of the electrical system, such as the HVAC, were repaired to help improve the sustainability of the building.

The updates to the Reptile House combined with its historic design make it a great place to visit at the zoo, Barnes said.

"The renovations will give a fresh new feel to a building that deserves the attention," she said.

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is located at 3400 Vine St. and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily during fall, winter and spring. For more information, go to

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